In the case of Doug Paulley against First Bus the test of reasonableness found that it was not reasonable to expect a bus driver to require that a pushchair vacate the space on a bus ‘reserved’ for wheelchair users. Instead a bus driver could only request a parent with an occupied pushchair to vacate the space; and of course a request can be turned down.
|Buggies versus wheelchairs - is there a middle ground?|
However, the judge attempts to lessen the impact of the decision thus:
"It has to be accepted that our conclusion and reasoning in this case means that wheelchair users will occasionally be prevented by other passengers from using the wheelchair space on the bus.
I do not, however, believe that the fact that some passengers will - albeit rarely - act selfishly and irresponsibly is a sufficient reason for imposing on bus companies a legal responsibility for a situation which is not of their making and which they are not in a position to prevent."
In all respect, your Honour, your ruling will give a green light to the selfish and irresponsible. This I can state from experience as a wheelchair and bus user.
These days I rarely use buses. There are a number of underlying issues that make travel by bus difficult, not least having a neurogenic bladder. Yet on those occasions I use buses I invariably meet with problems, most of which involve other travellers.
In rush hour, bus stops heaving with people in a hurry to get to work are not the best places for a wheelchair user to get a driver’s attention. Even when my PA has alerted the driver, by the time I board the bus the vehicle is so crowded that manoeuvring anywhere is an impossibility.
Forget about trying to claim the wheelchair ‘designated’ area. It isn’t going to happen.
Off peak times while easier to board buses can be equally as fraught for us. Most of the time our ‘reserved’ spot is occupied by a buggy user; and a lot more times than ‘occasionally’ we meet with resistance. That is the other passenger refuses to move.
While this is for the most part pushchair users. I’ve also had other passengers insisting they have a right to use the space as they’ve purchased a ticket; and that I’m travelling free!
If this ruling is the way forward for wheelchair users then there will be a decline in the numbers using buses. Once again we’re becoming marginalised through the findings of the judiciary. While the test of reasonableness may be claimed to underpin the decision arrived at by the judges in the Court of Appeal, I not overly confident that we will be reasonably treated when it comes to competing for space on buses.
As someone has already suggested in a letter to the BBC News site first come first served. Since wheelchair users are often allowed onto buses after all other passengers have boarded and alighted…you get the picture.